As beaches and boardwalks up and down the Jersey Shore begin various phases of reopening following coronavirus-related closures, one of the state’s major boardwalks will remain shut down for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra said Tuesday night that the town’s boardwalk will remain closed until after Memorial Day holiday, and the Jenkinson’s complex, consisting of a beach, restaurants and amusement rides and games, will also be off limits to the public. The borough is planning to open some beaches north of Maryland Avenue after the holiday weekend, but the boardwalk will remain shuttered. Even those beach openings, however, are not guaranteed.
“We are targeting early June and, again, it’s a target,” Kanitra said. “Right now it’s all just our best guess and trends.”
Point Pleasant Beach, as a town, owns one single beach at Maryland Avenue, near the border with Bay Head. The remainder of the oceanfront belongs to private property holders, including two commercial beach clubs open to the public, several condominium association beaches and Jenkinson’s, which makes up the bulk of the beachfront. The Maryland Avenue beach will be guarded open to those with beach badges, however the borough has restricted parking in virtually the entire half of town closest to the ocean – east of the NJ Transit railroad tracks – in order to limit out-of-town visitors from accessing the beach. The parking plan, which mandates any cars parked on public streets carry resident placards, was implemented as a loophole to avoid a mandate by Gov. Phil Murphy that stated towns cannot restrict beach access to residents.
Point Pleasant Beach officials are sacrificing the Memorial Day holiday and ultimately hoping the boardwalk and Jenkinson’s will be able to open by the next summer celebration – Independence Day.
“My hope coming out of this, and my focus, is really Fourth of July and forward,” said Kanitra. “That is when we really do our business. It’s important to our town in terms of parking revenue and very important to our businesses.”
The town’s leaders, as well as Jenkinson’s, are preparing for a large-scale effort to enforce social distancing regulations once the boardwalk and beaches reopen. The plan includes “ambassadors” who will monitor visitors, the placement of hand sanitizing stations across the boardwalk area, and a heavy law enforcement presence.
Visitors who do come to Point Pleasant Beach for Memorial Day weekend can likewise expect multiple law enforcement agencies patrolling the town.
“There have been a few actual and attempted vehicle thefts in town,” which have been concerning, Councilman Doug Vitale said.
Kanitra has previously said he expects Point Pleasant Beach to be the last major boardwalk in New Jersey to reopen, citing concerns of overcrowding and a lack of manpower to handle the enforcement of social distancing guidelines, plus provide standard police protection. The strategy, he believes, will pay off.
“People value safety and cleanliness first,” Kanitra said. “I want that to be how we’re branded during this pandemic.”